“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.” – Thomas Szasz
Are you fed up with being at home?
It’s almost a year we’re spending too much of our time at our houses. Even if we’re not working from home, almost everything else is closed. Sometimes we feel the walls are closing in on us. It’s not a great feeling.
If we also have kids, who are practically jailed with us for long periods that seem like forever, life is even tougher. Our children are climbing the walls, getting under our skin, and putting our mental health at risk.
No wonder, then, that these days many of us are prone to lose it every now and then, and feel both aggravated and guilty. Everyone else looks at us shocked (as their collapsing happens a bit later.)
For me, however, this chaos seems familiar. I already endured it when, after (too many) years of doubts, I started homeschooling my son. Yet, being with my child for good taught us to enjoy our time at home, enjoy our lives in general, and even to enjoy freedom. The nontrivial lessons my family learned through blood, sweat and tears (literally) can nowadays help us all, and probably gain us something for our bright future, too.
How Can Confinement Free Us?
Staying at home instead of going out to work or to hang out can, counter-intuitively, grant us more freedom in many ways. For one, we spend less money, commonly, so we can choose what we want to do with this tiny treasure. (Accumulating worthless stuff due to evil corporations’ manipulations is surely nothing we would do. Not too much, anyway. Probably.)
Moreover, we’re released from many of the restrictions working out imposed on us. For example, instead of spending much time commuting, not the most favorite activity for most of us, we have more time for ourselves. Additionally, we spend less time now on exhausting meetings, dreary chats with our colleagues and other such trying distractions, so we become much more efficient. We’re doing the same work in less time, and usually we’re freer to choose how to split our time, and when to do what.
We can use our extra free time, customarily, for being more bored, or for working harder. But we can also surprise ourselves, and use this time to our advantage.
We can learn what we really want to do with our time, like children who start homeschooling must do. It brings us back to life (often from a comma-like condition we didn’t even bother to know we were in). Therefore, this is the time to find what gives us pleasure, what fascinates us, and where our passions are.
It’s not easy, indeed, but it is fun.
How Can We Free Our Minds?
Enjoying our time, let alone finding our passions, are possible only when our brain is free. When we’re anxious, restless and nervous, for instance, we’re too preoccupied to examine what pleases us.
Unfortunately, the last Coronavirus year caused most of us to worry about our health, financial and political condition, in every possible combination. Consequently, we tend to spend our time on nervous not-very-productive activities, like bickering the people around us, consuming news obsessively in the news channels and in the social media (which only enhance our anxieties) and miserably escape into a variety of addictions.
Some effective methods to wean ourselves off our anxieties can be:
- To define the problems we face, and plan operative ways to solve them.
- To replace our feelings.
- To use our imagination not for picturing the disasters we may face, but for picturing the better reality we’re going to manifest (as Naomi Springer found). In every area that bothers us, we can create (preferably in writing) a vision of a positive changeover.
Creation of a vision is a very powerful tool to change reality. In the political area, for example, we already see how people’s vision has started changing the world in front of our very eyes.
When we skillfully calm ourselves, we can start devouring the world.
How Can We Free Our Everyday Lives?
Now that we unexpectedly managed to relax ourselves, we better remember (and teach our children) that the time to live is now. We shouldn’t waste life crying over our fate – or preparing for the unknown future.
Now is the perfect time to ask ourselves what we want to do better. (If we have kids, we may also want to replace their mostly-canceled-anyway curriculum with easier, enjoyable activities we believe in.)
It’s time to be curious, to be open to new experiences. As Hippolyte Taine said,
“The way to be bored is to know where you are going and the way to get there.”
So we better explore afresh what is good for us, and go for it.
Here are some options we can consider:
Learning to Live Better
Now is an excellent time to improve our life skills. Now always is. (Our childhood probably was a better time, but we used it for the noble cause of memorizing information we’ve forgotten long ago, so now is the best relevant time.)
We can study, for example, how to manage and invest our money better (and show our children how to do it, too.) We can learn how to declutter our house, design its content to serve our wellbeing, and keep it tidy easily (skills our kids should better grasp as well, for their sake and mental endurance, and for ours).
Additionally, we can start nurturing our inner artists. Nowadays, we have a severe shortage of art, so it’s time to listen to our inner voice, and express it by means that can also help our unfortunate surroundings.
But more than anything else, we better learn to have fun. Playing music, singing, dancing, playing, napping, laughing, and being silly.
Because if not now, when? And if not us, who?
Learning to Learn
We have much more time now to choose our activities according to our needs, not the needs of others. Now is the time, then, to truly listen to our hearts and recognize our wishes and our passions.
We can explore topics we’re interested in (and teach our children, or learn with them, how to investigate their areas of interest. My teenager son, for one, leisurely studies for MA at the Open University and enjoys it very much). We can study a new language, or how to play a musical instrument. Learning skills is usually more useful and more enjoyable than learning information (for both our children and us).
We can consider expanding occupations and hobbies of ours. For instance, I started studying a permaculture course I’ve always craved, and now I’m keenly re-planning my vegetable beds. But the days, regrettably, are never long enough for my plans.
We can also replace our occupations altogether. Some original alternatives can be found in Tom Hodgkinson’s The Book of Idle Pleasures, as well as his other guides to living leisurely.
We better let ourselves be bored every now and then, too. As Walter Benjamin writes,
“If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.“
We can, and should, let our imagination run. We can (re)create our dreams, and find ways to live them.
Taking Enjoyable Care of Our Bodies
We all want our food, for a start, to be more delicious and healthy. We can use our additional time nowadays to find how to buy better ingredients (be it fresh, unprocessed, local, or organic ones). We can take pleasure in learning how to cook new appetizing dishes, maybe together with our loved ones, and expand our not-always-glamorous cooking repertoire.
We can also gain knowledge of composting our leftovers instead of throwing them. If we wish, we can use this compost for growing houseplants or vegetables, which also improve both our food and our mood.
The quality calories we start to consume can now help us move our screen-paralyzed bodies. We can play good music that pushes us to action (figuratively, sadly). Then we can explore physical activities to find the ones we prefer the most (or detest the least), and let our bodies enjoy the movement.
And then enjoy resting.
The best part. (For me, anyway.)
Growing Love and Relationships
Now that we don’t have to spend so much time with the colleagues forced upon us, we have the opportunity of quality time with our elusive roommates, our deserted spouses, our surprised children, or our thrilled pets.
Social distancing can cause us to be more connected to people of our choice. We can now choose who we want to be in touch with (virtually, probably,) how much, and when, and to love it. When my son, for example, exchanged his noisy class with the quiet home, he started attending social activities and scheduling meetings with friends for the first time in his life. Sudden lack of company can drive us to such unprecedented efforts.
We can use this time to learn more about managing relationships, conversing, or leading, maybe by learning methods such as Compassionate Communication.
In addition we can learn, on the one hand, that when we’re absorbed in something that fascinates us, we are never alone. On the other hand, we can learn that we can always help others, we can always volunteer, even through our screens, and that when we help others we never feel lonely.
At the end of the day, this alienated time can teach us to develop our connections – and find more love than ever.
How Can We Break Free?
We live in tough times. We all feel it. Life nowadays is challenging for us all. But, like in any hardship, we can look for the presents this troubled present is bringing us.
We better try to avoid our escapist addictions, meet our worried inner selves, and learn to calm ourselves. We can try to turn our fears into hope, and even into vision. We can also learn to be good to ourselves and to others.
Passive sitting in front of screens can be okay some of the time. Watching other people’s creations can be enriching, insightful and valuable. Yet, it can’t make us happy. Only activating our own brains, hearts and bodies, doing something that comes from within, can truly happify us.
So we better learn to do whatever we love with enthusiasm and with passion, and teach our kids to live that way, too. We can re-examine our time and our way of life – and improve our relationships with ourselves, our bodies, and the people around us. We better use our additional time at home to slow life down, and to improve our lives and the lives of others.
One examination at a time.
One experimentation at a time.